Since trading up to select Sam Darnold at #3 overall in the 2018 Draft, the Jets have seen limited success with their young signal caller. On paper, the stats don’t look pretty: 36 TDs to 28 INTs, a 6.9 Y/A average and no playoff appearances through 2 seasons. Darnold hasn’t had a lot to work with in his young career: his best WR through 2 seasons has been Robby Anderson, and a bottom-3 offensive line certainly didn’t help. Darnold is also still very young: he will be 23 come Week 1. He has time to grow, and GM Joe Douglas has invested into both WR and offensive line heavily this offseason. But did Joe do enough? In an offseason where both Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins were traded, Douglas failed to bring either of them to New York, despite WR being a pressing need. Although the o-line room is undoubtedly improved, none of the players brought in are much more than average starters. Denzel Mims is talented, but raw; he doesn’t play to his blazing 4.38 40 time, and struggles to gain separation on short routes. No proven starting-caliber WRs were brought in by Douglas, and it’s hard to understand why. So If Sam can’t produce with a somewhat-boosted WR room and a better o-line, will it be time to move on?
While Darnold is very young, his contract is not. With 3 years left on his rookie contract, he’s going to demand a mega-deal sooner rather than later. A contract like that would leave the Jets unable to make many FA moves. Because QB is such an expensive position, teams with QBs on rookie contracts have a massive advantage to sign expensive free agents without running out of cap space. Teams like the Ravens, Texans and even Super Bowl champion Chiefs have shown this to be true. Once you give your franchise QB his 2nd contract, you better hope you already have the pieces in place to be competitive. If the Jets don’t have a solid foundation by then, they could be stuck in a Matthew Stafford-Lions situation: a solid QB on a huge contract, but no cap flexibility to bring in talent to help him win games.
The 2021 QB draft class is considered strong by draft experts: Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and even players in a lower tier like Trey Lance and Jamie Newman are considered potential franchise QBs. If Joe Douglas wanted to make a change at QB, this is the class to do so. If we do end up in a position to draft a guy like Lawrence or Fields and end up with a top 5 pick, that probably means Darnold struggled again this season, in which case it will be time to move on. Darnold is a promising player with plenty of potential in him, but if he fails to improve in his 3rd season, the Jets have to find a replacement. They can’t wait forever for Darnold to develop, and this team is too far away from contention to pay a guy like Darnold $30+ million dollars a season. We have too many holes to fill, and not enough time to do so. So by this time next year, the Jets might have a new franchise QB.